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November 30, 2011

More Deception from Con Man Richard Berman

Rick Berman is the king of charity fraud. He sets up phony front groups to do the dirty work of bad actors in industry. He takes their money and then takes on their critics. He runs “charitable” organizations, like the Center for Consumer Freedom (which fights The HSUS), the American Beverage Institute (which fights Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and the Center for Union Facts (which attacks public employees and unions), yet his groups don’t feed one animal, shelter one homeless person, or provide any other tangible social service. They are charitable organizations in name only, and Berman and his for-profit public relations company pocket a large share or even a majority of the total revenue. It’s a personal enrichment scam of the highest order, and he’s the architect of the con job. He’s got the mansion in McLean, Va., and the Bentley in the driveway as the spoils, with his accountant wife standing by to tally the profits.

But now Rick Berman has outdone himself. Now, this Beltway con artist–who has probably spent as much time as anyone in recent years fighting against animal welfare–has formed a new supposed animal welfare charity. He’s calling it the “Humane Society for Shelter Pets.”

Rick Berman's mansion
Front man Rick Berman's mansion in McLean, Va.

Remember, this is a man who opposed Prop B and other efforts to crack down on puppy mills.

He’s defended seal clubbing in Canada.

He opposed Prop 2 to help farm animals in California and all other major reforms to crack down on extreme confinement of animals on factory farms, including our work with the egg industry to provide more space to laying hens.

He’s opposed our efforts to stop horse slaughter.

I could go on about the leadership role he’s taken to defend the worst cruelties, to oppose even the most modest animal welfare reforms, and to shill for the worst animal abuse industries in America.

But today, this man rolled out a new animal welfare "charitable organization," and he’s the man behind the curtain.

In this case, he’s reached a new level of fraud and deception.

And of course, it’s really all about The HSUS and our historic mission of standing for all animals at risk, everywhere. He saw that The HSUS was big and powerful, with more than 11 million supporters and a positive impact on animal cruelty unlike any other organization in America. He thought he could enrich himself by going to the sealers, factory farmers, puppy millers, and others to plead for their money so he could run a brand attack against us. All of these institutional players are frustrated by our success, so they were easy pickings for Berman. In the last three years, he’s pocketed millions from them, set up a website, taken out ads in national newspapers against our work, and fed his talking points to our natural adversaries, who pick up his message and spread it through their own communications channels.

In forming his new group, he hasn’t come out and said he likes cruelty. He’s hoping you forgot his efforts to defend sealing, puppy mills, and other forms of abuse. But today, by saying all animal welfare money should go to animal shelters, he’s saying that no money should go to combat puppy mills, animal fighting ventures, factory farms, captive hunts, the exotic animal trade, the fur trade, or other animal welfare problems. 

Berman fails to recognize that all of us animal advocates–whether we are fighting for dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, horses, bears, or chimpanzees–are all part of the same fundamental enterprise. That’s an enterprise driven by a concern for all creatures and notion that every one of them should have a decent life and be spared from human torment or cruelty. He may try to divide and say that only one narrow class of animals should get all of the resources, but anybody who is a true animal advocate knows that’s a destructive idea and a death sentence for so many creatures. 

The HSUS rescues thousands of dogs from puppy mills and other cruelty
The HSUS combats puppy mills and more.

And it’s just a little too convenient. Too convenient because if that ever happened, then there’d be no program focus on all of the other forms of animal cruelty that Berman’s funders want to conduct and profit from.

In addition to our own full agenda of helping animals through education, advocacy, and direct care, The HSUS gives millions to other organizations. In the last five years, The HSUS has given more than $43 million in grants to other animal organizations. But Berman, via CCF and HSSP, says it’s not enough, while he and his outfits have taken out 25 full-page attack ads in national newspapers against The HSUS, at an estimated cost of as much as $2 million. And guess how much CCF has given to shelters: not one red cent, according to its IRS forms.

At The HSUS, we are on the front lines of helping animal shelters, and especially to advance the goal of halting the euthanasia of healthy and adoptable animals through advertising, publishing, training, grant-making, emergency response, and other forms of support. But we’ll never relent in our fight to help ALL animals–the 99 percent of the animals who are in crisis right now and need a group like The HSUS to stand up for them and fight for them.

P.S. According to the most recently available federal tax filings for Berman, the Center for Consumer Freedom devoted massive financial resources—almost $1 million in 2010—to attacking animal charities, and spent an estimated $131,572 to oppose animal welfare legislation and ballot initiatives in 6 states. Most of the remaining balance was paid to Richard Berman himself and his for-profit lobbying firm—a whopping $1.7 million of donor money taken in by an alleged charity—and nothing was spent to help animals or consumers.

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